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Criminal Desire: Race, Gender, and Illicit Interracial Sex in Apartheid South Africa

This project examines the production, enforcement, and impact of the Immorality (Amendment) Act (1950) during apartheid. The Immorality (Amendment) Act prohibited extramarital interracial sex between whites and blacks in South Africa from 1950 to 1985, and during the thirtyfive years of its existence at least nineteen thousand South Africans were fully prosecuted
for engaging in “illicit” interracial sex; thousands more were arrested but avoided prosecution. Drawing on a wide range of original primary sources, including interviews with individuals,
archival sources, and newspaper coverage, the project documents the roles of the police, courts, white and black newspapers, and communities in enforcing the law. The project has two main
goals. First, it seeks to interrogate the role of the criminalization of sex outside marriage between whites and blacks in teaching and reinforcing racialized identities and boundaries, in hopes of increasing our understanding of how South Africa became such a deeply racialized society where, currently, social encounters are always already racialized (Maré 2014). Second, the project aims to bring to light the intensely brutalizing emotional, social, and physical effects of the implementation of the law on innumerable South Africans and show how these harms were gendered and raced.


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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].